Obi-Wan's boots tapped lightly on the polished stone floor as he made his way back towards the residence wing of the embassy. They had arrived here several hours earlier and had immediately dispatched a message to the interim governor of Krisilia, but there was still no official response.
The Republic ambassador's assistant had welcomed them warmly, offering them rooms in the residence for as long as they needed, as well as full use of the compound's facilities. Obi-Wan was grateful for their generosity, but the situation was highly frustrating. It wasn't unusual for Jedi assistance to be requested under false pretenses, of course. He'd been on tens of missions where the need for Jedi arbitration had been either fabricated or exaggerated for various purposes. However, he couldn't recall a single mission on which he had been ignored upon arrival.
It troubled him deeply. Perhaps something had happened to the interim governor? Krisilia's previous governor, a stern but respected dictator, had been assassinated recently, and the planet's two most powerful states had each presented a candidate to replace her. Tensions had escalated quickly, with each side blaming the other for the assassination. The interim governor, who had been appointed by the system's senator, had requested that a team of Jedi be sent to assist with the situation. Toran, the largest state, was located on the northern continent, and it was there that Obi-Wan and Anakin were supposed to have gone to begin the negotiations. Siri and Ferus were to have traveled to Gilan, a wealthy industrial state on the southern continent, to negotiate with the opposing candidate's coalition. The capital city where they were presently being housed was located on a large tropical island near the planet's equator.
He turned down the hallway of the residence wing, composing his message to the Council in his head. Perhaps they should wait another day or so, and then split up as planned and investigate the situation? He needed to discuss it with Siri, but he reckoned she would agree to that plan. Independent action was something that seemed to suit her.
Perhaps the Council had sensed that things were not as they seemed on Krisilia, and this was why two teams were sent. But wouldn't they have been informed, were that the case?
He palmed open the door to the suite he shared with Anakin. The sound of the shower running hit his ears immediately. Again? He took a shower not four hours ago. His padawan had practically sprinted for the 'fresher and its spacious shower upon arrival. Even after eight years, abundant flowing water still seemed luxurious to Anakin.
He removed his robe and boots and sank onto the sofa in the middle of the room. I should probably comm Siri, he thought. He closed his eyes and sighed. He hadn't spoken privately with her since... well, since she'd kissed him yesterday.
He brushed his fingers lightly across his lips, the memory bringing a slight smile to his face. He could still remember how her mouth felt pressed against his, the way her lips moved, sweeping softly over his own. It had been a long time since anyone had kissed him, and he'd almost forgotten how pleasurable it could be. The memory sent a tingle down his spine -- even replaying it in his mind, it was so tempting to imagine pulling her tightly against him, pressing his tongue between her lips...
Stop this, he admonished himself. It's pointless fantasy.
The shower was still running. What the sith was that boy doing in there? The sound of the running water was, unfortunately, making him aware of his own bladder. He stood and walked towards the 'fresher, hoping that Anakin wasn't currently engaged in any activity that was too intimate. He paused outside the door, realizing that he should knock. There was no answer. His body was growing more insistent by the second.
Damn it, Anakin... He sighed and opened the door. There was an opaque curtain pulled around the shower. He could probably just sneak in and out quietly, without being noticed. Standing at the latrine, he unfastened his trousers. He didn't sense anything out of the ordinary. Perhaps Anakin had simply found time for a good workout this morning, and wanted to clean up a bit. He'd probably come in just as the water had started, and it only seemed like a long shower. He was almost finished here anyway.
The water turned off abruptly.
"Sorry to intrude, but I couldn't wait," he warned. The gasp that originated from the shower behind him did not sound like Anakin.
He turned in surprise to see an equally startled Siri -- wet and completely naked -- staring back at him. The color drained from his face. It returned when he realized that he was now urinating on his bare feet.
"Shit!" He quickly turned back to the latrine, the image of Siri's nakedness burned into his mind. For some reason, he could do nothing to shake it. He finished as best he could and hurriedly refastened his trousers before turning to face her. Water was dripping from her hair, down her face, glistening on her skin. His eyes followed a droplet of water from her shoulder down across her breast, down her stomach, swerving around her navel, down... He forced his eyes back up to her face, which wore an expression that was a blend of embarrassment and amusement.
A hundred little thoughts flickered through his mind, none of which seemed appropriate to voice. Say something. Don't just stand there.
One thought burst to the surface of the swell. "What are you doing here?" He was surprised by the intensity of his own voice.
Siri was as well, shrinking back slightly. "I... I'm sorry... We didn't have any hot water in our suite, and Anakin said you'd be gone for a while. He let me in." She blinked a few times, then drew herself up again, slightly indignant. "Do you ever knock? If you'd thought about it at all, you would have known I was here!"
"It didn't occur to me, as this is my 'fresher!"
Why were they yelling at each other? He realized with a start that he was staring at her breasts. He wrenched his eyes away. "Will you please cover yourself?"
She put her hands on her hips defiantly. "Why? Do I make you uncomfortable?"
"As a matter of fact, yes, you do."
"Then perhaps you shouldn't leer at me like a schoolboy in heat."
His head snapped back around at that. "I was not leering. You are, unexpectedly I might add, standing here in my shower, naked, and dripping, and... it's quite distracting!"
"You could leave," she snapped. "Or you could hand me a towel, at the very least."
"I don't have a towel."
Siri glanced pointedly over his shoulder, at the stack of fluffy white towels on a shelf behind him. He sighed and handed her one. She quickly wrapped it around her body. Obi-Wan exhaled slowly, releasing his frustration to the Force. Why did she get under his skin so easily?
Siri stifled a giggle, and he noticed that she was staring at his left foot. He suddenly realized that he was standing in a puddle.
"Ugh," he moaned, lifting his foot and reaching for another towel. He cleaned himself off and mopped the floor with the towel.
"Do you always have such poor aim?" she quipped, now drying herself off a little with the edges of the towel.
He smirked in response.
She stared at him for a moment before breaking into an amused grin. "I suppose you'd like to watch me get dressed as well?"
"No!" His hands flew up and he took a step backwards, then immediately realized that his response could be construed in a way he didn't intend. He stepped forward again. "I mean, yes, I... oh, that's not what I meant." He squeezed his eyes shut. "I'll just wait outside. Right then." He leaped for the door, closing it behind him, missing the wide smile that spread across Siri's lovely face.
"Tea," Obi-Wan said to himself, pacing in the common room. "I should make some tea." The room was equipped with an automatic kettle and a variety of types of tea in individual packets. He filled the kettle from the small sink and set it to boil.
The scene in the 'fresher had been humiliating, to say the least. He seemed to be making a fool of himself in front of Siri at every turn. At least she didn't seem to mind -- in fact, she seemed to enjoy it.
Why should I be concerned about what Siri thinks of me? he wondered, settling back into pacing the floor, lost in thought. If she thinks I'm a fool, or if she thinks otherwise, what does it matter? For some reason, it did matter to him, he realized with a start. He wanted her to like him, to think highly of him. He'd known her for years. She either thought highly of him or she didn't. Why did he feel so compelled to impress her now?
The kettle chimed, indicating that the water was ready. He turned the kettle off, filled two strangely-shaped cups, and examined the packets of tea available. Most were brands he'd never heard of, so he chose two at random. He carried the steeping mugs back to the low table by the sofa, casting a glance at the 'fresher door. Siri ought to be emerging any moment.
He sat on the rather large sofa, stiffly at first, wondering what the best pose to strike should be. If he sat like this, he'd appear too tense, too disturbed by what had just happened between them. He leaned back, sinking into the sofa cushions. This position might appear too relaxed, and he couldn't quite reach his tea. Casual, but dignified -- that's what he needed. He pulled his feet up under him, cross-legged, in a meditation pose. Better. He turned his body and stretched his legs out across the cushions, almost horizontal, draping his arm across the back of the sofa.
He grinned at himself. No, this makes it look like--
The door opened. He nearly fell off of the sofa in his haste to sit upright again. Siri looked at him oddly.
"I made some tea," he said, unable to think of any other way to invite her to sit down.
She nodded, settling comfortably next to him and taking the warm mug into her hand. He couldn't help but notice that she chose to sit in the center of the sofa, close to him.
She took a sip and grimaced slightly. "Is there any sweetener?"
He leapt to his feet a bit more enthusiastically than he intended. He quickly found the sweetener packets, and something with which to stir the tea. He handed them to her and sat down again. Her lips quirked upwards in a strange smile as she prepared her tea, hands moving in a familiar routine.
He inhaled, noting that she smelled clean and slightly fragrant, like the soap he'd used earlier. His soap. Her short blond hair had been towel-dried and stuck out from her head in several directions. It was refreshing to see her this way, and almost... intimate. She raised the cup to her lips and cast her eyes towards him as she took a sip.
She swallowed. "Why are you staring at me? Is something wrong?" She threaded fingers through her short hair.
He grinned. "I thought you didn't mind if I looked at you. At least, as long as you have clothes on." He was immediately mortified. Why did I say that?
To his relief, she laughed. "Yes, I did say that, didn't I?" Her eyes grew darker. "You can look all you like, if you'll allow me the same liberty."
"I'll leave the door open next time I take a shower," he said, shocked at his own boldness. "It's only fair." It was the closest thing to an apology he could muster.
She paused, as if carefully considering her words. "Once, years ago, I snuck into the men's changing rooms by the training salles and watched you in the shower."
"Really?" He felt strangely relieved. "When was this?"
"At least ten years ago," she said, smiling at his reaction. "So I suppose we're even now."
"Perhaps," he replied. "Of course, I imagine I look different now than I did then."
She shrugged and raised the cup to her lips to cover her smile.
"I'm glad you've stayed for tea, actually, because I was hoping we could talk about what we should do next."
Her eyebrows raised at that. "Next?" She looked a little flustered. "Well, I..." She set her cup down on the table and turned to face him. She took a deep breath and took one of his hands in hers. "Why do we have to talk about it? Why can't we just...?"
Obi-Wan suddenly realized that they were having two completely different conversations. He paused, feeling her fingers stroke his palm slowly, surprised by how good that simple touch felt. It was such a small comfort, really. Maybe he should let this happen. It was clear that they were attracted to one another. They were friends. What harm could come from a little physical contact? He met her gaze steadily.
"That... feels nice," he stammered. He took a deep breath. "Please feel free to continue doing it. I was referring to the mission, though."
She dropped his hand abruptly. "Oh, Force, I--" She blushed. "I'm sorry."
He took her hand, replicating her earlier caress in turn. "Siri, don't apologize. I don't want us to feel uncomfortable with each other, especially not now, when we have a mission to attend to. I won't deny that I'm attracted to you." Her eyes met his at that. He swallowed down his feelings of awkwardness and continued, "And whatever we choose to do about that is a separate issue."
She nodded and slid a little closer to him. Her thigh pressed against his, and their clasped hands rested in his lap. "So, what were you going to tell me?"
Her proximity was a little distracting, but not overwhelmingly so. "We still haven't received a message, or even an acknowledgement from the Krisilian government. I can't help but think that something has happened to the interim governor."
She settled back against the cushion of the sofa, her shoulder pressed against his, forehead furrowed in concentration. "We should probably contact the Council. Of course, my first thought is to split up and go to negotiate with the candidates, as originally planned. Perhaps one of them is involved in the governor's disappearance."
"We don't know for certain that he's disappeared."
"He was the one who requested our presence. We've tried repeatedly to contact him and have received no reply. That strongly suggests he's disappeared, or has been incapacitated somehow."
"Yes, but it's speculation at this point. We should spend a few days here and investigate."
"That sounds precisely like what the Council would suggest," she remarked dryly. "But I suppose you're right. The conservative course of action is probably best."
"Conservative?" he snorted. "Is that what you think of me?"
"Yes," she replied, a little too quickly. He frowned slightly. "For fuck's sake, Obi-Wan, I'm surprised you even take a piss without the Council's approval." She grinned.
He snorted at that, uncertain if he was amused or offended. He didn't think of himself as conservative. Well, compared to Qui-Gon, he certainly was, but in general...?
He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it, fixing her with an amused stare. Surely a conservative person wouldn't do that. Or...
He turned her hand over and kissed her palm, then traced a path across it with the tip of his tongue. She sucked in her breath sharply and closed her eyes. He immediately wondered if he'd gone too far, releasing her hand.
She opened her eyes and smiled. "That was unexpected," she admitted. "And very nice."
He smiled back. "Conservative?"
She grinned wickedly. "Definitely. You'll have to do better than that to change my mind."
He laughed nervously and let go of her hand, sitting back. "I don't think I should be trying to change your mind."
"Why not?" Her smile was crooked, her inflection conveying a bit of a challenge.
Obi-Wan thought for a moment, watching Siri's face. They had been flirting with each other off and on ever since the kiss, dropping light innuendo into conversation, brushing against one another when they passed in the hall. Was this just a harmless game, or was there something more going on here? He wanted to ask her that, but he wasn't sure he really wanted to know the answer. After all, if it was more than a little playful flirtation, then he should put a stop to it at once. But I don't want this to stop, not yet.
Time to change the subject. "Where are the boys? I haven't seen Anakin in hours."
She noted his dodge with a wry smile, but didn't push the issue further. "Ferus said they were thinking of getting some exercise outside. I understand that the embassy grounds are quite expansive."
"Together?" Obi-Wan was surprised. Anakin and Ferus generally avoided each other. He knew they didn't get along very well.
Siri shrugged, equally perplexed. "Yes, together. Anakin came to our suite looking for Ferus, and it wasn't long before they were heading out the door. I have no idea when they started getting along."
"Well, whatever the reason, I'm glad for it. Anakin doesn't have many friends. Ferus could be a good influence on him."
Siri grinned. "Should I worry that your padawan might be a bad influence on mine?"
Obi-Wan sighed. "Perhaps you should."